Spirit of Place # 2

One of the funniest things about using an empty shop for our screening of “Sound it Out” yesterday was that although the store had been closed and boarded up for months, and our entrance was through a chipboard door covered in black and yellow hazard tape, we still had quite a few callers asking “Are you open for business?” Even when they looked through the door and could see that there was just an empty space inside. As the film started, we were closing the doors when two Japanese women arrived, wanting to come in.
-“Have you come to see the film?”
-“No, to Argos”
-“Sorry, Argos isn’t here any more, we’re doing a film screening. Come and join us if you like”
-“We’ve come to Argos” (now trying to squeeze past me to get in)
-“This used to be Argos, but that shop has moved now – it shows how to get there on the notice outside”
-“But we want to come in to Argos”
We are creatures of habit, I guess! But it made me think again about empty spaces, what they used to be and the memories they hold.
Long before it was Argos, the building we used was a department store called Roberts Bros, destroyed by bombing in the 1940s and then rebuilt in the late 1950s. Several people we spoke to still thought of it as “the old Roberts building”.
Richard Hawley has written songs and titled albums about this – like Coles Corner, which used to be the standard meeting place for sweethearts in Sheffield and even though the shop it was named after no longer exists, most local people will know exactly where you mean.
Yet another reason why we love using unusual spaces and places for our film screenings: they’ve got a history of many layers.
It feels as if showing a film in these spaces just adds to those layers of impressions and memories – and then we roll up the screen, pack up our equipment and go on to our next temporary venue. Maybe one day we’ll have our own cinema to play with, but in the meantime it feels like a real privilege to inhabit these fascinating places for a short time.

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